Following a difficult first half with four at the back and with senior centre-backs Jannik Vestergaard and Maya Yoshida both absent, Southampton manager Ralph Hasenhuttl chose to play Ryan Bertrand as a left-sided centre-half in a back five in the second 45 minutes against Bournemouth on Saturday.
As a result, he may well have solved one of his biggest on-pitch issues ahead of next season.
The Austrian manager confirmed post-match that his planning for the 2019/20 campaign would begin on Sunday after Saints’ Premier League status was confirmed, and one of the big problems he needs to deal with is his side’s defence.
The three conceded against the Cherries means that the south coast outfit have now let in 61 goals this term, and they will need to improve on that if they want to move up the standings from August onwards.
Giving up a division-high 27 points from winning positions shows their vulnerabilities and a lack of experience and quality at the heart of the defence, but maybe Bertrand can be the man to sort things out.
It remains to be seen whether Hasenhuttl will stick with five at the back or go with a four – something he has favoured at previous clubs – next season.
Should he stick with the latter, it is clear to see that he may not be able to rely on the likes of Jannik Vestergaard, Jack Stephens and Maya Yoshida to not make many mistakes in Southampton’s bid to be a top-half team again.
A new signing this summer would certainly be an option, but with Matt Targett often twiddling his thumbs on the substitutes’ bench in recent weeks, perhaps it is time for Bertrand to move inside on a permanent basis.
The 29-year-old has plenty of experience, is quick and is decent in the air despite not being the tallest, and he proved on Saturday and under Ronald Koeman previously that he can do a job in the middle if required.
Who has been your club’s unsung hero the season? Fans nominate theirs in the video below…
Bertrand alongside Vestergaard and Bednarek for example could be just the right mix, and ensure Hasenhuttl doesn’t have to go out and spend big on a centre-back.
While you would lose the former Chelsea man’s threat on the wing, if he can help keep the goals out then it could be an inspired change of role.